INNOVATE South Africa

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INNOVATE™ South Africa

As a changemaker with over 35 years’ experience, I believe innovation is a critical tool to address a deeper human need to be better for a greater good.

The culmination of a rewarding career has led me to creating the Billybo Group, a human-centred solutions collective. To help make a measurable contribution to a positive future for South Africa, it is my strong belief that the creation of new enterprise, and the entrepreneurial growth of businesses are fundamental to this future.

Right now, South Africa is in the eye of a perfect storm where economic necessity, future-fit technologies and a healthy supply of smart entrepreneurs are converging. These entrepreneurs are hungry to drive creative disruption through street-smart innovation. Less so by importing global solutions, more so by driving solutions on a “need-to-have” rather than “nice-to-have” commercial basis.

We used to live in a global ‘push-economy’. Companies would manufacture products and offer services, then use creative marketing to ‘push, place and promote’ them into the hearts and minds of customers. Then the advent of social media in the late 2000s led to a new global ‘pull economy’. Now the power to choose products and services has literally shifted into the hands of customers in a mobile, always on world. People now ‘pull, personalise and choose’ the information needed to make brand decisions themselves. This shift has greatly democratised innovation to better serve the exponential growth of the individual’s purchasing power.

It is comforting to know that, as humans, we are still largely reliant on community based ecosystems. We instinctively rely on those around us to inform, protect, advise and validate us. Communities move us forward, not just new technology. Understanding this human dynamic is a critical component for successful innovation. We must start by asking first: ‘Why are we innovating, for whom and to what purpose? What inspires a person to make a particular decision or to change their behaviour?’

True innovation requires a better understanding of the physical and emotional pain-points, barriers and bottlenecks in a person’s life. This requires three basic fundamentals:
1. an insatiable curiosity to better understand people;
2. the discipline to create the macro and granular context around problems or opportunities and to define the ecosystem within which they exist; and
3. mastering the art of seamlessly curating and blending the necessary human insights and technology resources to solve the problem or to realise the opportunity

One of the best vehicles for human-centred innovation is through entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs are driven by a very specific risk-taking hunger to succeed against the odds. Successful ventures tend to address a real human need and then ‘commercially’ deliver a product or service that satisfies that need with much more agility, speed and relevance than bigger, risk-averse organisations.

Peter Drucker nailed it when he once said: “Innovation is the specific instrument of entrepreneurship, the act that endows resources with a new capacity to create wealth”

That is why I believe that now is the time to back local creators, makers and entrepreneurs in South Africa with mentorship, investment and leadership development.

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